Michael Nicklas, project architect, said, “If educational buildings are respectful of the environment, the students will consider environmental stewardship an important value. Our schools should make a strong statement that saving energy and protecting the environment are important. The message that we give to future generations, through the schools we build for them, should not be underestimated.”
This school project received the “Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR” graphic, distinguishing the design as one of the nation’s best in energy performance. If the project operates as intended and meets or exceeds EPA criteria for energy performance, the school may qualify to receive the ENERGY STAR label.
Guilford Northern Middle School is a 139,000 sq. ft. building that will have classrooms for 950 students, a gymnasium, an auditorium, and facilities for dining, science, art, music, technology, media, and school administration. Site construction will include grading for the entire campus-a middle and high school-nine athletic fields, parking lots, bus drop-off loops, concrete walkways, and planting. The school is designed to serve as a three-dimensional textbook on sustainable strategies for students, staff and the surrounding community.
The project will use cutting-edge techniques to achieve superior energy performance levels. Daylighting is the project’s primary sustainable strategy. In earlier projects, Innovative Design had used south-facing monitors and glazing to maximize winter solar gain. However, south-facing glazing can cause high glare.
The firm will implement a new daylighting strategy that uses south-facing clerestory windows but with 40% less glass to minimize glare. Throughout the year, daylighting will provide natural light at full-lighting levels to classrooms, administrative offices, the media center, the gymnasium, and the cafeteria during two-thirds of the school’s operating hours. Occupancy and photocell sensors will control indirect dimmable fluorescent fixtures and reduce electrical lighting consumption.
To enhance the performance of the roof monitor daylighting strategy, the firm will apply a white thermoplastic single-ply membrane to the flat roofs where the monitors sit, improving the monitors’ performance. These techniques will help reduce the size of the HVAC system, enhancing the overall efficiency of the school. Lower lighting and cooling needs are expected to reduce initial costs by $150,000 and, correspondingly, air conditioning by 70 tons.
Guilford Northern Middle School will also draw on more established energy-saving techniques using renewable energy. South-facing solar thermal panels will help generate hot water for the kitchen, saving 1,747 therms per year. A solar photovoltaic system located between the greenhouses near the sixth-grade science room will generate supplemental electricity onsite. Other strategies will increase energy performance while improving indoor air quality. For example, the under-floor air distribution system for all classrooms, the media center, and administrative offices will provide more even heating and cooling.
Guildford Northern Middle School’s sustainable features are interconnected by computerized monitoring systems and visible to students. Coupled with the science curriculum, these features will provide experiential learning material that can influence the way students look at their environment.
Architect of Record:
Innovative Design, Inc.
Guilford County Schools
High Point, NC
Design Rating / Year:
88 / 2004
Estimated Energy Use
Estimated Total Annual
Estimated Annual Energy Cost:
Daylighting, curved translucent light shelves, solar thermal panels, under-floor air distribution, rainwater collection system, Living Machine
For More Information:
Michael Nicklas, FAIA
Guilford County Schools 336.819.2711